Developer and HackerNews contributor Jeremy Keeshin has stumbled across the scariest thing I’ve seen all day (I live in San Francisco, okay). In searching for ways to make his own site search auto-complete superfast, like Facebook’s, Keesh came across a file titled first_degree.php, which revealed that Facebook has a ranking for the people who you’re probably searching for on Facebook. Keeshin guesses that the ranking algorithm is likely based on stuff like whose profile you look at, who you chat with and who’ve you’ve recently friended.
Yeah, I’ve tried it out and yeah it works (Names boxed out to protect the innocent, above). And while it doesn’t seem to be malicious, in general it’s not smart to run this kind of stuff on your Facebook profile — See the comments if you want further elaboration on why from Facebook engineer Keith Adams.
The bookmarklet, which you can add to your bookmarks bar here, allows you to see a list of people you’ve been most active with basked on rank — Basically the more negative the number associated with a user the more you have the Facebook hots for the person.
Adams also jumps in to the HackerNews thread on the topic, “To clarify what a lot of people seem to be wondering, visiting someone’s profile does not affect the search results of anyone but yourself.”
Nice try Adams, but I don’t think that hits on our exact fear. This has the potential to be used for something way more embarrassing than better search results; I mean imagine if Arrington knew how much I looked at his profile.
Using the extension also throws you into the weirdest of dichotomies; You want to be able look at people’s profiles anonymously, but at the same time want to know if they’ve been looking at yours. You can’t help but wonder if your top person also looks at you that much.
In Facebook we trust.